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September 4, 1998


Pressure mounts on govt for e-commerce laws

Email this story to a friend. Since e-commerce has emerged as an important factor for the viability of Internet services projects, pressure is mounting on the government to act on the recommendations of the a cyber law committee it set up.

The committee's recommendations are pending with the Parliament since
Ink on paper
E-commerce laws
Curriculum on CDs
TN to set up taskforce
January 1997.

The industry has demanded that the government be prepared to table amendments to the relevant acts in the next session of Parliament so that more businesses and investment could be attracted to the Internet services industry.

The committee, constituted by the Department of Electronics in 1992, has come out with detailed recommendations for amendments to the antiquated laws. These attempt to facilitate transactions through the electronic medium.

The recommendations suggest drastic amendments to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and Indian Shops and Establishment Act among others.

The committee, which was chaired by the then secretary of the DoE, has suggested measures in order to make it possible for the government to levy excise, sales and customs duty on transactions through the electronic media.

So far, the government has been reluctant to allow e-commerce because it does not have the technology to monitor transactions through electronic media and hence is unable to levy taxes.

Currently, any financial transactions require physical proof such as signature of the parties (transactions on credit cards, for instance) as laid down by the Indian Evidence Act.

The recommendations of the cyber law committee that have been lying untouched for about two years have caught the attention of the aspiring Internet service providers who see in it a panacea for their success.

For the ISPs, e-commerce is the only way to ensure a large customer base. Also, e-commerce guarantees an instant return on investments as the ISPs can charge their customers who trade on their networks.

More importantly, now that the foreign ISPs have made it abundantly clear that there is no possibility of their investing into Internet services unless e-commerce is permitted, potential ISPs are increasing pressure on the government to take up the recommendations of the cyber law committee.

Leading the aspiring ISPs in their effort to get the government act on the cyber law committee's recommendations is the Confederation of Indian Industry that has held several meetings with the relevant departments of administration.

The chamber has, in its meetings with the government, emphasised that allowing e-commerce is the only way to rope in the foreign companies into the Internet services arena.

It has also argued that ISPs would have the same fate as the players in other segment of telecommunications services if the financial viability of the projects is not enhanced by allowing e-commerce.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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